My journey with the 99 Art Project continues:
This is my shirt. It may seem like just a pile of white clothing but it is really a shirt waiting to be made. I rarely buy clothes preferring, instead, to remake those I already have or those discarded by my friends. There are various reason why I do this. To begin with, I grew up during a time when it was not uncommon for women to make clothes for themselves and their family. My mom, for example, made many of my dresses when I was a child. She even made the wedding dress for my Aunt Ruby as well as the bridesmaid’s dress and my flower girl dress, a dress that made me feel like a little princess.
There is also the ecological and ethics factor. The fashion industry not only consumes an incredible amount of natural resources, it is also one of the major producers of toxic waste. The industry is also guilty of creating immoral sweatshop conditions for many of their workers. Just think of the 1,100 garment workers crushed to death when the factory in Bangladesh were they worked collapsed on them.
But there is also a more romantic and magical reason. Our clothing absorbs the vibrations we emit thus wearing others’ clothing is like wearing their energy as well.
Just as a song or a smell can evoke a personal memory, so can clothes. White polka dots on red always make me think of a dress my mother used to wear.
If clothes could talk, what would they say?
And of course there is the pleasure reward that positive transformation always gives us. Transforming old clothes, as opposed to using ex-novo materials, means working around what’s already there. But restyling takes patience and skills I don’t have so I use an Ockham’s Razor approach—the simplest way is the best. The simplest way for me has been that of using the huipil as a model. The huipil, traditional blouse in Central America, is basically a rectangular piece of cloth folded in half with a slit in the center for the neck and side seams that leave an opening for the arms. So for my huipiles, it’s just a matter of piecing together cut up clothes to make a rectangle.
The huipil, of Mayan origin, was not considered just a garment but also a representation of personal ideology. The Mayans believed that clothing could transform a person just as a person could transform clothing, the two existing in symbiosis.
Mayans gave their huipiles a cosmic significance. Having the head placed in the very centre of the fabric has specific implications. When a woman places a huipil over her head, she enters a symbolic universe. As she sticks her head through the hole, she emerges into the external world and her body becomes the axis of the universe. She is the centre of the world connecting the earth and the sky.
The women participating in the 99 Art Project are not geographically united. They come from various cultures and various nationalities. Nevertheless, they are united in their womanhood.
Even though this concept we call democracy was invented over 2,500 years ago, women worldwide have been given the right to vote only within the past 100 years (more or less depending upon the country they’re from). This means that the societies created in these 2,400 years or more have been based totally and exclusively upon male mentality and male domination. This is a crime against nature.
Just as the brain is divided into two for reasons of efficiency, two sexes were created. They were made not to compete but to complement one another. Instead, we live in a masculinized society that promotes dominance as opposed to collaboration. To impair this collaboration not only goes against nature but against our future. Because this lack of balance has created not only a society that limps, but a society that’s on the verge of self-destruction. We need a more maternal attitude towards the world we live in if we want to survive thus the theme I’ve chosen for my 99 Art Project is that of the Great Mother.
Cynthia Korzekwa ©